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Controlling Risks associated with Electroplating

SAFE W
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Safe Work Australia is an Australian Government statutory agency established in 2009. Safe
Work Australia consists of representatives of the Commonwealth, state and territory governments,
the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and
the Australian Industry Group.

Safe Work Australia works with the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to improve
work health and safety and workers compensation arrangements. Safe Work Australia is a
national policy body, not a regulator of work health and safety. The Commonwealth, states and
territories have responsibility for regulating and enforcing work health and safety laws in their
jurisdiction.

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Contact information
Safe Work Australia
Phone: +61 2 6121 5317
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Website: www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................................................ 5
1.1 What is electroplating? ................................................................................................................. 5
1.2 Who has duties associated with electroplating? ....................................................................... 6
1.3 How to manage health and safety risks ..................................................................................... 7
2. CHEMICAL HAZARDS AND CONTROL MEASURES..................................................................................... 9
2.1 Chemical Health Hazards............................................................................................................. 9
Acids ........................................................................................................................................................ 9
Arsine Gas ............................................................................................................................................ 10
Chromic Acid ........................................................................................................................................ 10
Cyanide ................................................................................................................................................. 10
Dusts...................................................................................................................................................... 10
Nitric Acid .............................................................................................................................................. 10
Solvents ................................................................................................................................................ 11
2.2 Chemical Safety Hazards Fire and Explosion ..................................................................... 11
2.3 CONTROL MEASURES ............................................................................................................. 11
Isolation of Hazardous Chemicals .................................................................................................... 11
Storage and handling .......................................................................................................................... 12
Spills ...................................................................................................................................................... 12
Keeping hazardous chemicals stable ............................................................................................... 12
Monitoring airborne contaminants and using exposure standards .............................................. 13
Health monitoring................................................................................................................................. 13
Fire and ignition sources .................................................................................................................... 14
Emergency plans and fire fighting equipment ................................................................................. 14
First Aid ................................................................................................................................................. 15
Safety signs .......................................................................................................................................... 15
Personal Protective Equipment ......................................................................................................... 15
Workplace Facilities ............................................................................................................................ 16
3. OTHER HAZARDS AND CONTROL MEASURES........................................................................................ 17

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3.1 Electrical Hazards........................................................................................................................ 17
3.2 Plant Hazards ............................................................................................................................... 17
3.3 Noise.............................................................................................................................................. 18
3.4 Hazardous Manual Tasks........................................................................................................... 18
APPENDIX A: Definitions................................................................................................................................ 19
APPENDIX B: CYANIDE POISONING ................................................................................................................ 20

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1. INTRODUCTION

People working in the electroplating industry may face risks from hazardous chemicals, metals,
wet work, live electrical currents and heavy machinery.

This Guide primarily addresses the hazards involved with storage and handling of hazardous
chemicals used in electroplating, however, it also contains some guidance regarding electrical,
plant, noise and manual handling hazards. It applies to all workplaces where electroplating is
carried out, and where relevant, can be applied to other processes such as anodising, hot-dip
galvanising, electroless plating and general metal finishing.

1.1 WHAT IS ELECTROPLATING?

Electroplating is the coating of a metal object with another metal, using an electrical current
passed through a chemical solution. This system is made up of:
a cathode the material to be plated
an anode the plating metal or inert conductor
an electrolytic solution a salt solution used to immerse the anode and cathode containing
metal ions to be coated
an electrical current provided by an electrical source such as a battery or other power
unit.
Figure 1 shows a simplified diagram of the electroplating circuit.

Figure 1: Electroplating system

Objects commonly plated include machine and automotive parts, fixing devices, jewellery and
electrical components.

The electroplating process involves the use of hazardous chemicals from pre-treatment (solvent
degreasing, alkali cleaning and acid dipping), during plating, to the final buffing, grinding and
polishing of the product. Electroplating uses metals including chromium, nickel, cadmium, zinc,

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copper, silver and gold, dissolvable salts incorporating cyanide and sulphate, acids and alkaline
solutions. A list of common metals and solutions used in electroplating is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Common electroplating metals and solutions


Metal Solution
Chromium Chromic acid (chromium trioxide) with sulphuric acid
Nickel Nickel sulphate with boric acid and nickel chloride
Cadmium Cadmium oxide with sodium cyanide and sodium hydroxide
Cadmium cyanide in alkaline solution
Zinc Zinc sulphate with boric acid
Zinc oxide with sodium cyanide and sodium hydroxide
Zinc cyanide in alkaline solution
Zinc chloride with hydrochloric acid
Copper Copper sulphate in weak sulphuric acid
Copper sulphate with sodium cyanide in alkaline solution
Copper cyanide with sodium cyanide in alkaline solution
Silver Silver cyanide in alkaline solution
Potassium silver cyanide in alkaline solution
Further definitions of terms used in this Guide are provided in Appendix A.

1.2 WHO HAS DUTIES ASSOCIATED WITH ELECTROPLATING?

A person conducting a business or undertaking has the primary duty under the WHS Act to
ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that workers and other persons are not exposed to
health and safety risks arising from the business or undertaking. This duty includes ensuring, so
far as is reasonably practicable, the safe use, handling and storage of plant and substances.

Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant, substances or structures must


ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the plant, substance or structure is without risks to
the health and safety of persons who, at a workplace, use the plant, substance or structure for a
purpose for which it was designed or manufactured.
There are also specific duties under the WHS Regulations for workplace chemicals that include:
the manufacturer or importer of a substance must determine whether the substance is a
hazardous chemical, and if it is determined to be hazardous chemical, to prepare a safety
data sheet and correctly label
the supplier of a hazardous chemical must provide the current safety data sheet for the
chemical when it is supplied to a person at a workplace

Officers, for example, company directors, have a duty to exercise due diligence to ensure that the
business or undertaking complies with the WHS Act and Regulations. This includes taking
reasonable steps to ensure that the business or undertaking has and uses appropriate resources
and processes to eliminate or minimise risks.

Workers have a duty to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and must not
adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. Workers must comply with any reasonable
instruction and cooperate with any reasonable policy or procedure relating to health and safety at
the workplace.

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1.3 HOW TO MANAGE HEALTH AND SAFETY RISKS

The WHS Regulations require persons conducting a business or undertaking to manage risks
including those associated with plant, hazardous manual tasks, noise, hazardous chemicals and
electrical risks.
Regulations 32-38: In order to manage risk under the WHS Regulations, a duty holder must:
identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to the risk
eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable
if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk minimise the risk so far as is
reasonably practicable by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of
risk control
maintain the implemented control measure so that it remains effective
review, and if necessary revise all risk control measures so as to maintain, so far as is
reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.

This Guide provides information on how to manage the risks associated with electroplating,
particularly in relation to hazardous chemicals. When managing these risks, regard must be had
to the following factors:
the hazardous properties of the hazardous chemical
any potentially hazardous reaction (chemical or physical) between the hazardous chemical
and another substance or mixture, including a substance that may be generated by the
reaction
the nature of the work to be carried out with the hazardous chemical
any structure, plant or system of work that:
o is used in the use, handling, generation or storage of the hazardous chemical
o could interact with the hazardous chemical at the workplace.

The hierarchy of control


There are a number of ways to control the risks associated with electroplating. Some control
measures are more effective than others. Control measures can be ranked from the highest level
of protection and reliability to the lowest. This ranking is known as the hierarchy of control.
You must always aim to eliminate a hazard and associated risk first. If this is not reasonably
practicable, the risk must be minimised by using one or more of the following approaches:
substitution
isolation
implementing engineering controls.
If a risk then remains, it must be minimised by implementing administrative controls, so far as is
reasonably practicable. Any remaining risk must be minimised with suitable personal protective
equipment (PPE).
Examples of application of the hierarchy of controls for electroplating are provided in Table 2. A
combination of control measures may be needed to effectively eliminate or minimise risk.

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Table 2: Hierarchy of controls
Hierarchy Steps Examples
ELIMINATION using another process
SUBSTITUTION using trivalent chromium instead of hexavalent chromium
selecting quiet machinery
ISOLATION separation of incompatible chemicals
automated work processes
providing partial and total enclosures on plating tanks
using partitions around work areas
ENGINEERING local exhaust ventilation
CONTROLS machine guarding
using bath additives or surfactants in plating tanks
use of bubble dispersers on the liquid surface
ADMINISTRATIVE shift rotations
CONTROLS restricted access to work areas
work processes that minimise exposure
equipment, floor, bench and fixture maintenance
workplace education
PERSONAL chemical goggles
PROTECTIVE gloves
EQUIPMENT aprons
respirators

Guidance on the general risk management process is available in the Code of Practice: How to
Manage Work Health and Safety Risks.

Information, instruction and training


Section 19: A person conducting a business or undertaking to provide relevant information,
instruction, training and supervision necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and
safety arising from work carried out.

Regulation 39: The WHS Regulations require that a person conducting a business or
undertaking must ensure that information, training and instruction provided to a worker is suitable
and adequate having regard to:
the nature of the work carried out by the worker
the nature of the risks associated with the work at the time of the information, training and
instruction, and
the control measures implemented.

Workers must be made aware of the need to carry out their work in such a way as to minimise
contamination, and the importance of proper use and care of all control measures implemented to
protect health and safety.
The training provided must be readily understandable by any person to whom it is provided.
In workplaces where cyanide is being used, stored or handled, workers should be trained to
recognise the symptoms of cyanide poisoning and to apply relevant first aid procedures.

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2. CHEMICAL HAZARDS AND CONTROL MEASURES

2.1 CHEMICAL HEALTH HAZARDS


Workers at electroplating workplaces may be exposed to hazardous chemicals in the form of
fumes, vapours, mists, metal dusts, electrolytic solutions, solvents, heavy metals and toxic
wastes.

Exposure to chemical hazards may cause short and/or long term health problems including skin
and eye irritation, burns, asthma/breathing problems, nerve disorders, and in some cases, cancer.

Adverse health effects due to exposure to hazardous chemicals are dependent on the type and
amount of contact, the duration of exposure and the route of entry into the body.

Exposure to hazardous chemicals in an electroplating workplace can occur:


- when containers leak or spill during transport, storage, decanting or disposal
- if fumes or gases build up during storage or use in confined or inadequately ventilated
areas
- during the electroplating process (splashing when placing or removing items in the tank,
from metal or acid aerosols as a result from excessive bubbling or fuming in electrolytic
solutions)
- if extraction systems removing corrosive mists or toxic gases fail, are inadequate or
improperly designed or installed
- if there is inadequate housekeeping (drips and spills, incorrect disposal of wastes, poor
clean up procedures causing incidental contact with contaminated surfaces) during
cleaning, maintenance or repair of tanks
- if toxic gases are released due to accidental mixing of incompatible chemicals
- if personal protective equipment is inadequate
- through skin contact with contaminated personal protective equipment.

Electroplating processes such as solvent degreasing may lead to dermatitis and skin infections,
as well as vapour exposure which can lead to anaesthetic and toxic effects. Alkali cleaning
involves the use of sodium carbonate which when mixed with other alkalis may form a mist
irritating to skin, eyes and respiratory mucosa. Buffing and polishing hazards are related to the
generation of dusts.

Information regarding the hazards of chemicals, recommended controls, instructions on use,


storage and disposal, and personal protective equipment can be found on labels and safety data
sheets (SDS).

Acids
The process of acid dipping includes the use of hydrochloric, hydrofluoric, sulphuric and nitric
acids which are all corrosive to the skin and eyes. Acid mists may be evolved from high
concentrations of acid, air or tank content agitation or elevated tank temperatures. Acid mists
irritate the skin, eye, nose and throat, and may result in chest pain, cough and shortness of
breath.

Hydrofluoric acid is highly toxic and corrosive through skin and eye contact. High levels of
exposure may cause organ failure and death. Calcium gluconate gel should be kept readily
available for treatment of burns.

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Arsine Gas
Arsine gas is formed when an acid comes into contact with most solutions containing arsenic ions
and a source of nascent hydrogen, often provided by the presence of other metals in acid. Arsenic
may be present as an impurity in metal or in commercial grades of sulphuric and hydrochloric
acids. Arsenic is occasionally used in very dilute solutions as an aid in electroplating of rhodium
and noble metals in order to improve adhesion, hardness and as a brightener to the finish of those
metals.

Arsenic poisoning can be acute due to its haemolytic activity, or chronic due to its carcinogenic
potential. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, stomach pains, vomiting, delirium, seizures
and coma.

Chromic Acid
Chromic acid is a strong irritant and corrosive. Exposure usually arises as the result of:
- splashes
- as a mist of chromic acid coated bubbles of hydrogen
- as chromic acid contaminated dust.

Chromic acid affects the skin, nasal and bronchial mucosal linings. On the skin, chromic acid can
cause chronic ulcers known as chrome holes. In the nasal cavity, chrome ulceration affects the
nasal septum and can cause perforation. When inhaled as a mist or contaminated dust, chromic
acid can cause nasal irritation, rhinitis and bronchitis. If splashed in the eyes, chromic acid can
cause severe injury including conjuctival inflammation and corneal injury. Chromic acid contains
soluble hexavalent chromium which is toxic and carcinogenic.

Cyanide
Cyanide solutions contain cyanide ions and are corrosive to skin and eyes and highly toxic if
swallowed. If the pH of a cyanide plating bath falls below approximately pH10, the air above the
bath may contain high levels of hydrogen cyanide gas. This will also occur when cyanide ions
comes into contact with an acid.

Hydrogen cyanide gas smells of bitter almonds and as a chemical asphyxiant is one of the most
rapidly acting of all known poisons. Not all people are able to recognise the odour and reliance on
the sense of smell should not be used as a warning signal. Symptoms of cyanide poisoning
include weakness, confusion, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, seizures and coma.

Cyanide salts may be present in solid form, such as sodium cyanide or potassium cyanide.
Cyanide solids are highly toxic if swallowed.

Dusts
Grinding or polishing machines are used for the grinding, polishing and buffing of metal objects by
means of an abrasive wheel, scratch-brush wheel, grinding and finishing belt or other similar
equipment. When used in conjunction with abrasive polishes, these generate fine dusts and
should have an efficient local ventilation system or a dust extraction system fitted. Long term
exposure to such dusts can lead to pneumoconiosis with symptoms including inflammatory
reactions within the lungs, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Nitric Acid
In addition to its corrosive effects, nitric acid requires particular care because of the potential for
liberation of nitrogen oxides. Water-soluble nitrogen oxides can cause respiratory tract irritation

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and can lead to chemical pneumonia. Nitrogen oxides with low water solubility can penetrate deep
into the lungs and may result in delayed health effects such as lung edema (fluid accumulation in
the lungs).

Solvents
Most solvents used in electroplating pre-treatment processes are organic chlorine, alcohol or
petroleum based chemicals which have powerful properties to dissolve organic solids. They are
often mixtures of several chemicals and can be particularly hazardous. Commonly used
hazardous solvents in electroplating include acetone and trichloroethylene.

Solvents can be inhaled, ingested or absorbed through the skin. They can cause short term
adverse health effects such as dermatitis including drying, cracking, reddening or blistering of the
skin, headaches and drowsiness, poor co-ordination, and nausea. Exposure to high
concentrations of solvent vapour can lead to unconsciousness and death.

Long term health effects from solvent exposure include effects on the brain and nervous system,
the skin, liver, bone-marrow, kidneys, fertility and the foetus, and some solvents are carcinogenic.

Some solvents have synergistic effects. This means that they will have greater health effects in
combination with other hazards. For example when using some organic solvents, adverse health
effects will be greater if you smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol soon after handling.

2.2 CHEMICAL SAFETY HAZARDS FIRE AND EXPLOSION


The safety hazards of a chemical include its flammability and reactivity. Flammability is the
tendency of a chemical to burn. Solvents are common flammable chemicals in an electroplating
workplace. Reactivity is the potential of the material to explode or react violently with air, water or
other substances upon contact. Some metal dusts produced during buffing and grinding may
create an explosion hazard if there is an ignition source.

2.3 CONTROL MEASURES


To ensure the health and safety of workers involved with the use, storage and handling of
hazardous chemicals, the substance, mixture or article must:
- be correctly classified
- be correctly packaged
- be correctly labelled
- have a current and safety data sheet.

Detailed information on the management of risks from hazardous chemicals is available in the
Code of Practice: Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace.

Isolation of Hazardous Chemicals


Use, handling and storage of hazardous chemicals requires the elimination of the risk of physical
or chemical reactions. For example, ensuring any form of cyanide does not come into any contact
with an acid, keeping concentrated nitric acid separate from organics such as solvents and oils, or
keeping oxidising agents isolated from combustibles. Isolation can be achieved, for example, by
the use of separate storage cupboards or by undertaking plating involving cyanide in a separate
work area from plating involving acids.

Articles treated in acid baths should be thoroughly rinsed with water before being placed in plating
tanks.

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Cyanides need special attention and must be clearly labelled, and stored in a secure, dry place
separated completely from acids. If possible, enclosed systems should be utilised when using
cyanide.

Storage and handling


Hazardous chemicals must be stored appropriately. This involves using the correct container,
isolation of incompatible chemicals, the use of flammable or specialised chemical cupboards, and
the correct labelling of containers. Workers must be trained in the proper storage and handling of
the chemicals involved in electroplating processes to minimise risk. Safety data sheets must be
provided for the workers involved as they assist to communicate the proper use, handling, storage
and disposal of hazardous chemicals, as well as providing detailed safety precautions including
recommended personal protective equipment.
Further information on toxic or corrosive substances is available in the following Australian
Standards:
AS 3780: The storage and handling of corrosive substances
AS/NZS 4452: The storage and handling of toxic substances
Spills
When handling, using or storing hazardous chemicals a spill containment system must be
provided to ensure that any risks from spills are minimised, that the spill is contained within the
workplace, and the spill containment system separates incompatible chemicals for example
cyanide and acids. This may include:
- installing a floor that is impervious to the chemicals being used
- pumping chemicals into plating tanks instead of pouring manually from containers
- a raised floor fitted with collection bunds (separated bunds for incompatible chemicals)
- providing spill kits with suitable absorbent materials.

Keeping hazardous chemicals stable


R. 356: A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably
practicable, that hazardous chemicals do not become unstable, decompose or change so as to
create a hazard different to the hazard originally created by the hazardous chemical or
significantly increase the risk associated with any hazard in relation to the hazardous chemical.

Where practical, stabilisation systems should be automated, for example, automatic addition of
stabilisers to plating tanks. Stability may be achieved by:
- maintaining the proportions of constituents as described on the safety data sheet or as
advised by the manufacturer
- temperature regulation
- pH regulation
- surface tension regulation.

Vapour degreasing tanks should be positioned in an area free from any contact with high
temperature sources to prevent the production of toxic decomposition products and maintain
chemical stability. Tanks should have sufficient heat and vapour condensation controls, and
materials being cleaned should be handled in a manner that minimises the risk of exposure to
vapours, for example the use of overhead lifting devices.

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Monitoring airborne contaminants and using exposure standards
Regulation 49: A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that no person at the
workplace is exposed to a substance or mixture in an airborne concentration that exceeds the
relevant exposure standard for the substance or mixture.

Hazardous chemicals such as acids, alkalis and hydrogen cyanide, and metals such as
chromium, cadmium, zinc, copper and silver used in electroplating have exposure standards that
must be adhered to. Monitoring of workplace contaminant levels may need to be carried out if:
there is an uncertainty whether or not the exposure standard has been or may be
exceeded, or
it is necessary to determine whether there is a risk to health.

These records of air monitoring must be kept for a minimum of 30 years, and must be available to
workers who are exposed. More information regarding exposure standards can be found in the
Safe Work Australia publication Guidance for the Interpretation of the Workplace Exposure
Standards for Airborne Contaminants.
Electroplating may cause the formation of hazardous fumes, mists or gases. Controls may include
the use of:
- local exhaust ventilation
- surfactants or physical surface modifiers
- temperature control
- personal respiratory devices.
Local exhaust ventilation for plating tanks may include a rim extraction system. Extraction should
be designed according to the risk of exposure and the hazards of the chemicals being used. Small
tanks may require an extraction slot along one side only, while larger tanks may require a push-
pull extraction system that moves air across the surface of the tank and away from the worker.
Local exhaust ventilation should also be fitted to grinding and buffing machines to remove dust.
Electroplating workers should be trained about the risks of airborne contaminants and their
controls. Electroplating workplaces have the potential to have asphyxiants such as hydrogen in
the workers breathing zone. Controls may include the use of ventilation systems and oxygen or
hydrogen monitoring devices.
Health monitoring
Regulation 368: Health monitoring must be provided for workers where exposure to a hazardous
chemical contained within Schedule 14 of the WHS Regulations presents a significant risk to the
workers health.

Schedule 14 is a list of hazardous chemicals requiring health monitoring and their associated
types of health monitoring. These chemicals include chromium, cadmium and arsenic which are
commonly encountered during electroplating.
Health monitoring must also be provided for workers using hazardous chemicals not listed in
Schedule 14 where there is a significant risk to the workers health from exposure to the
hazardous chemical and there are valid techniques to detect adverse health effects or a valid
biological monitoring procedure is available.
Some examples of common hazardous chemicals used in electroplating that may pose a
significant risk to workers health and types of health monitoring can be found in Table 3. For
further information, see the guidance on health monitoring for exposure to hazardous chemicals.

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Table 3: Common hazardous chemicals used in electroplating and their related health effects and
recommended tests for health monitoring
Hazardous Substance Health Risk Health Monitoring
Chromium* compounds Ulceration of nose/skin Skin inspection
Skin sensitisation Respiratory testing
Occupational asthma Blood tests
Occupational cancer
Nickel Dermatitis Skin inspection
Occupational cancer Respiratory testing
Occupational asthma Blood tests
Acids/Alkalis Dermatitis Skin inspection
Degreasers/Cleaners Burns and Ulceration General health check
Eye/nose/throat irritation
Trichloroethylene Dermatitis Skin inspection
Eye/skin irritation General health check
Occupational cancer
Cyanide solutions/sludge Poisoning Skin inspection
Dermatitis General health check
Headaches/Nausea/Dizziness
Cadmium* containing Poisoning Respiratory testing
powders/solutions Respiratory effects Blood tests
Anaemia/Liver dysfunction
Cadmium* oxide Occupational cancer Blood tests
Respiratory testing
Platinum salts Occupational asthma Respiratory testing
Oxides of nitrogen Respiratory effects Respiratory testing
Copper compounds Dermatitis Skin inspection
Eye/skin irritation General health check
Gastrointestinal effects Blood tests
Arsenic* Haemolytic action on blood Peripheral nervous system testing
Skin inspection
Urinary inorganic arsenic
* Schedule 14 hazardous chemicals

Fire and ignition sources


Electroplating baths can generate highly flammable hydrogen bubbles which may be released into
the air. Hydrogen gas is potentially explosive between 4% and 75% by volume in air.
Regulation 355: A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must, if there is a
possibility of fire or explosion in a hazardous area being caused by an ignition source being
introduced into the area, ensure the ignition source is not introduced into the area (from outside or
within the space).

Emergency plans and fire fighting equipment


Regulation 43: A person conducting a business or undertaking must prepare an effective
emergency plan for the workplace.
Regulation 359: A person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace must ensure that
fire protection and fire fighting equipment:
is designed and built for the types of hazardous chemicals at the workplace in quantities in
which they are used, handled, generated or stored at the workplace and the conditions under
which they are used, handled, generated or stored
is compatible with fire fighting equipment used by primary emergency services organisations

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is properly installed, tested and maintained
has its latest testing date recorded and test results kept until the next test is conducted.

All workplaces must have appropriate and maintained fire fighting equipment. Hazardous
chemicals may require specialised fire fighting equipment, for example certain forms of cyanide
require powder fire extinguishers, and cyanide exposure can occur if smoke from a fire is inhaled.
Details about special emergency procedures and safety equipment can be found on the
chemicals SDS.

First Aid
First Aid equipment must be made available to workers, be maintained and a provision must be
made to have trained personnel available to administer first aid if required. First aid equipment
should include deluge showers and eye wash stations for workers handling toxic or corrosive
chemicals. In an electroplating workplace special attention should be given to the risks of cyanide
poisoning (see Appendix B), and chemical burns. Specialised safety equipment should be
considered, for instance a cyanide antidote poisoning kit or calcium gluconate gel for hydrofluoric
acid burns.
For further information, refer to the First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice.

Safety signs
Safety signs may be used to warn of a particular hazard or state the responsibilities of a certain
person. A safety sign must be located next to the hazard and be clearly visible to any person
approaching the hazard. For example a safety sign for a chemical mixture containing cyanide or
arsenic should be placed near a storage cupboard and include the name of the first aid officer.
Further information on the design and use of signs is available in AS 1319: Safety signs for the
occupational environment.

Electroplating workplaces that use large amounts of hazardous chemicals may be required to
display placards if prescribed threshold quantities are exceeded. For more information on
placards and manifest quantities, see Schedule 11 of the WHS Regulations.

Personal Protective Equipment


Regualtion 44: If personal protective equipment (PPE) is to be used at the workplace, the person
conducting the business or undertaking must ensure that the equipment is:
selected to minimise risk to health and safety
suitable for the nature of the work and any hazard associated with the work
a suitable size and fit and reasonably comfortable for the person wearing it
maintained, repaired or replaced so it continues to minimise the risk
used or worn by the worker, so far as is reasonably practicable.
Regulation 46: A worker must, so far as reasonably able, wear the PPE in accordance with any
information, training or reasonable instruction.

In most circumstances, PPE should not be relied on to control risk. It should be used only as a
last resort when all other reasonably practicable control measures have been used and the risk
has not been eliminated, or as interim protection until higher level controls are implemented.
There may also be situations when the use of other controls is not practicable.
For electroplating PPE may include:

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- eye protection
- gloves
- face splash protection
- waterproof apron
- waterproof footwear
- respirator with suitable filters.

Further information on the selection and use of personal protective equipment is available in the
following Australian Standards:

AS/NZS 1715 Selection, use and maintenance of respiratory protective devices


AS/NZS 1716 Respiratory protective devices
AS/NZS 1337 Personal eye protection (Series)
AS/NZS 2161 Occupational protective gloves (Series)
AS/NZS 2210 Occupational protective footwear (Series)
All equipment must be maintained in good working order and be clean and hygienic. Workers
must be trained in the proper use, fitting and maintenance of protective equipment.

Workplace Facilities
An electroplating workplace should provide a clean hand washing station and an area for the
changing of contaminated clothing to ensure hazardous chemicals are not spread through the
workplace or out into the community. A clean eating area separate from the work area should be
provided.

Further information is available in the Code of Practice: Managing the Work Environment and
Facilities.

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3. OTHER HAZARDS AND CONTROL MEASURES

3.1 ELECTRICAL HAZARDS


Electroplating involves a combination of conductive solutions and live electrical currents. Common
hazards in electroplating workplaces include exposed live conductors, damaged insulation,
broken sockets, corrosion of system parts, and heaters not earthed.
A person conducting a business or undertaking must manage electrical risks at the workplace.
This may include:
providing safe and suitable electrical equipment for example not using leads and tools in
damp or wet conditions unless they are specially designed for those conditions
providing enough socket outletsoverloading socket outlets by using adaptors can cause
fires
ensuring power circuits are protected by the appropriate rated fuse or circuit breaker to
prevent overloading
arranging electrical leads so they will not be damaged
the installation of residual current devices (RCDs)
the regular inspection and testing of electrical equipment.

For further information on managing electrical risks, see the Code of Practice: Managing Electrical
Risks in the Workplace.

3.2 PLANT HAZARDS


Plant refers to machinery, tools, appliances and equipment. An electroplating workplace may
involve a range of plant including:
forklifts
overhead travelling cranes
hoists
portable electrical tools
grinding, buffing or polishing machines
air receivers
compressors.
Regulation 203: A person with management or control of plant at a workplace must manage risks
to health and safety associated with the plant.
A person with management or control of plant at a workplace must also:
so far as is reasonably practicable, prevent unauthorised alterations to or interference with
the plant
take all reasonable steps to ensure the plant is only used for the purpose for which it is
designed, unless a competent person has assessed that the proposed use does not
increase the risk to health and safety, and
ensure all safety features, warning devices, guarding, operational controls, emergency
stops are used in accordance with instructions and information provided.
Plant used in environments where the atmosphere is acidic is at an increased risk of corrosion
damage. Regular inspection and maintenance should be conducted, especially for lifting
equipment such as cranes, hoists, chains and hooks.
Electroplating workplaces may use cooling towers to control the temperature of plating tank
solutions or rectifiers. Cooling towers are at risk of colonisation of hazardous bacteria such as

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Legionella. Cooling towers should be regularly inspected, cleaned and treated with an appropriate
microbiocide. For more information, see AS/NZS 3666 Air-handling and water systems of
buildings.
Further information on plant risks is available in the Code of Practice: Managing Risks of Plant in
the Workplace.

3.3 NOISE
Some areas of an electroplating workplace may generate hazardous noise (noise that exceeds
the exposure standard for noise), for example a buffing and grinding area. Hazardous noise can
destroy the ability to hear clearly and can also make hearing sounds necessary for working safely
more difficult, for instance instructions or warning signals.

Regulation 57: A person conducting a business or undertaking must manage risks to health and
safety relating to hearing loss associated with noise including ensuring that the noise a worker is
exposed to at the workplace does not exceed the exposure standard for noise.
Noise can be reduced and controlled by:
- obtaining noise information from the manufacturer and selecting quieter plant
- ensuring plant is well maintained
- if noise levels are still hazardous after higher order controls are implemented, providing
personal hearing protectors.
Further information is available in the Code of Practice: Managing Noise and Preventing Hearing
Loss at Work.

3.4 HAZARDOUS MANUAL TASKS


Regulation 60: A person conducting a business or undertaking must manage risks to health and
safety relating to a musculoskeletal disorder associated with a hazardous manual task.
Electroplating workplaces may involve manual tasks including pushing, pulling, lifting or carrying
heavy chemical containers, plant and items for plating. Buffing and grinding on fixed machines
may involve repetitive movement. These activities may result in strain injuries. Controls may
include:
- using smaller containers
- use of trolleys or cranes
- safe work procedures
- providing appropriate training.
Further information is available in the Code of Practice: Hazardous Manual Tasks.

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APPENDIX A: Definitions

Acid dipping means a pre-treatment process involving the use of mineral acids, most commonly
hydrochloric and sulphuric acids.

Alkali cleaning means a pre-treatment process involving electrolytic cleaning with alkalis, most
commonly sodium carbonate or sodium hydroxide.

Anode means the positive electrode in an electroplating or anodising solution.

Anodising means a process that involves the anodic oxidation of metals (commonly aluminium,
titanium, zinc, magnesium, niobium and tantalum).

Cathode means the negative electrode in an electroplating or anodising solution.

Electrode means the conductor through which electricity enters or leaves an electrolyte, gas,
vacuum or other medium.

Electroless plating means the deposition of a metal from a solution of its salts involving
reduction and oxidation reactions.

Electrolyte means a solution able to conduct electrical current.

Pre-treatment process means a process to ensure that grease, dirt, oxides, other solutions and
scales are removed from the surface of the metal before coating.

Solvent degreasing means a pre-treatment process that involves the use of chlorinated
hydrocarbons (usually trichloroethylene or perchloroethylene) in either heated liquid or hot vapour
form (vapour degreasing).

Tank means the vessel containing electrodes and electrolytic solution.

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APPENDIX B: CYANIDE POISONING
With suitable controls in operation, cyanide poisoning is rare. However, all workers and people
within the vicinity of cyanide processes should be well educated in identification of symptoms,
safe working and first aid procedures. Unless there is firm evidence to demonstrate cyanide
exposure has occurred, a patient is most likely to be suffering from something else.

Cyanide antidotes such as hydroxocobalamin, sodium thiosulphate and dicobalt edetate must
only be administered by trained emergency services officers or medical professionals.

Mild and early cyanide poisoning


The onset of symptoms resulting from cyanide exposure is very rapid.
Symptoms of mild or early cyanide poisoning include:
nausea
headache
giddiness
sense of suffocation
agitation
irritation of nose, mouth and/or throat
vomiting (if route of exposure is ingestion).

These symptoms are similar to signs exhibited by people with the fear of poisoning and patients
suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, and should be assessed accordingly.

Severe cyanide poisoning


Symptoms of severe cyanide poisoning may be characterised by:
gasping for breath
loss of consciousness
seizures
cardiac arrest.
Without prompt treatment, death can result.

Rescue
It is essential that rescuers of cyanide affected people are trained in emergency procedures and
use of personal protective equipment.

No attempt at rescue should be performed until an appropriate hazard assessment of the


exposure site is made and appropriate personnel are in place and personal protective equipment
is available. DO NOT enter a potentially hazardous area to rescue a victim unless using positive
pressure self-contained breathing apparatus as cyanide gas may be inhaled from the surrounding
atmosphere.

Special care needs to be taken when handling a patient, as skin and clothing may be
contaminated. Absorption through the skin is a significant source of exposure to cyanide. Gloves
and goggles should be worn and all clothing (including that of the patient), should be carefully
removed and placed in a sealed receptacle for decontamination or disposal.

First Aid
Application of first aid to a patient who has cyanide poisoning must be prompt. Only a trained
rescuer or first aid officer wearing appropriate personal protective equipment including personal

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respirator, gloves and goggles should undertake treatment of a patient. Always consult the Safety
Data Sheet for specific First Aid advice.

If cyanide poisoning has occurred immediately:


dial 000 for an ambulance
assess area for risks to rescuer
take all protective precautions including double gloving and respiratory devices;
remove patient from source of contamination and into fresh air
remove all contaminated clothing and wash contaminated skin, mouth and lips with
copious amounts of fresh water
if the patient is conscious or unconscious but breathing, administer 100% oxygen, and
continue oxygen until medical assistance arrives
if the victim is fully conscious and has swallowed cyanide induce vomiting before
administering 100% oxygen
if victim is unconscious check for signs of life and commence external CPR if required
if not breathing wipe away any foreign material from the mouth and employ the use of a
resuscitation bag and mask, avoid mouth to mouth resuscitation and DO NOT inhale
victims expired breath
arrange for urgent transfer of the patient, accompanied with a cyanide antidote kit and
appropriate SDS, to professional medical care.

Professional care will generally include the support of breathing and circulation, oxygen
administration, blood sampling and treatment with a cyanide antidote.

Cyanide poisoning emergency kit


Where there is an identified risk of exposure to cyanide, special items should be kept in an
accessible and convenient position. These items should be maintained appropriately and, if
possible, located adjacent to an oxygen source and personal breathing equipment for
contaminated atmospheres. Trained staff should be available during the hours of cyanide use.
Items for a cyanide emergency kit include:
an oxygen resuscitator and a source of oxygen
a minimum of four pairs of gloves
safety eyewear
plastic bags labelled with contaminated with cyanide
a clearly marked cyanide antidote box containing:
o an approved airway
o elasticised tourniquet
o disposable indwelling intravenous cannulae
o 20 mL sterile disposable syringes and needles
o fluoride heparinised blood sample tubes
o skin prep swabs, dressings and adhesive tape
o ampoules of antidote including the prescribing information outlining side effects
and precautions
a copy of the appropriate SDS for the cyanide compound or mixture.

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